As we went through the copy given for yesterday's task, the speaker would ask us to provide feedback on the structures, the style, the commas, etc. used by the author of the text. For instance, she would read a paragraph out loud and prompt us to begin flooding her with suggestions on how we may improve on it from the point of view of grammatical as well as lexical cohesion. It wasn’t that hard to spot the author’s mistakes—the text was nothing short of wide of the mark—, but then the class turned into a sort of chaos, because every single attendee had developed their own boosted version of the original sentence or paragraph in question, either by means of rephrasing, reordering, or sometimes even rewriting the original text.
Leaving the strictest editing and revising standards aside, this led me to realise that all these people—me included—must feel some sort of delusional passion for doing this job, for otherwise there’s no reason why we would take so much time and trouble to work on such a faulty piece of writing, leaving so much trace of us having been there, doing that, while in fact, editors are expected to be virtually invisible.
So I wondered… What makes us love editing so much? Having slept on it, this is what I’ve come up with in broad strokes:
We love editing because...
• No two editors are alike, work alike, edit alike. Just like translators, each editor has their own style of editing. Of course, we may all easily agree on certain inevitable premises, like an editor should never “present their personal preferences as gospel”, as suggested by the European’s Commission Revision Manual. And yet, even if we all take a certain set of principles as the golden rule for best practices, we are all bound to end up producing a different, unique edited version of the same original text.
• In editing you’ll teach, and in teaching you will learn. Even if you consider yourself a know-all, there will come a point when the ugly truth—the fact that nobody can be so blindly certain of their own knowledge in this life—takes you by surprise and forces you to learn something new in the process of editing, or even once you’ve delivered your work to your client. A good editor will always doubt the author's choice, but only the best come to doubt their own knowledge. And as doubt leads to research, it’s impossible to escape learning if you edit for a living.
• No two texts are the same, read the same, demand the same skills/effort/time. Every editing project poses a series of challenges for its editor. You can’t be passionate about editing without enjoying a good, sometimes stressful challenge, can you? There’s always a need for further reading, researching and (re-)checking the subject matter, grammar rules, specific terminology, dates, etc. Challenge is lurking at every comma, every full stop, every beginning of a new paragraph. The whole idea of having to explain to the author of the original why we suggest doing this and why it is imperative to do that is quite a challenge in terms of emotional intelligence, not to mention those frequent instances when you are kindly asked to account for your own changes in translation editing.
So, do you sympathise with my thoughts on why we love editing? I must have skipped lots of other very legitimate reasons, but these are the main three that instantly came to my mind while writing this post. I’d love to hear yours!